Dangers Of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning In Boating

The National Park Service, through the Department of the Interior in August 2000 requested assistance from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the US Coast Guard to evaluate visitor and employee carbon monoxide (CO) exposures from generators and propulsion engines on houseboats. This initial investigation characterized CO poisonings through epidemiologic data gathering and the measurement of severely hazardous CO concentrations on houseboats at Lake Powell . Since that initial investigation, over 600 boating-related poisonings in 35 states have been identified with over 100 of these poisonings resulting in death. Over 250 of the poisonings occurred on houseboats, with more than 200 of these poisonings attributed to generator exhaust alone.

Initial investigations conducted by NIOSH industrial hygienists and engineers showed very high concentrations of CO on and around houseboats using gasoline-powered generators. Following these investigations, NIOSH worked with major houseboat and generator manufacturers to evaluate novel engineering controls to reduce CO concentrations in occupied areas on houseboats. This work led to collaborations with external partners to evaluate new engineering technologies designed to reduce CO poisonings on many other types of recreational boats (including ski boats and express cruisers). Since the start of this project, new catalyst-based low CO emission generators and stern-drive engines have been developed by manufacturers to help address this issue. This work has been conducted since 2002 under a continuing Interagency agreement with the U.S. Coast Guard.

This work has been supported by the following partners

National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA)

Forever Resorts LLC

Sumerset Houseboats

Westerbeke Corporation

Indmar Products Inc.

Ancon Marine Consultants

Kohler Power Systems

National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA)

American Boat Yacht Council (ABYC)

Mercury Marine

Water Sports Industry Association (WSIA)

The reports listed below include:

  1. Health Hazard Evaluations which document hazardous environments on and around houseboats
  2. Engineering Control Technology Reports which report on the evaluation of engineering controls which have been developed to mitigate boat-related CO poisonings
  3. National Case Listing of carbon monoxide poisonings and deaths reported by state.

Additional studies have been conducted to characterize the environments surrounding other recreational boats including bass boats, ski boats, personal watercraft and express cruisers. This work is continuing to evaluate and address hazards associated with CO on other houseboats and recreational boats.


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